Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1912 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
either managed or natural. The Minister and members would be aware that I sought permission during the estimates process to make available a copy of that to a contact I have in Fiji whom I have spoken to on the telephone. To put it in the vernacular, he was blown away with it. He was particularly impressed - so impressed, in fact, that I am expecting him to send one of his subordinate officers over here to talk to our people and I would like the record to show that congratulations are due to those people.
MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (4.09): I would like to address a number of issues in relation to the Attorney-General's portfolio and this line item. I do so, in the first instance, by referring back to the Estimates Committee and its report, and the Government's response to the report. A number of significant issues were raised during the Estimates Committee process with the Attorney and officers of the Attorney's portfolio - matters, I think, of some current moment in relation to justice and its administration. I would acknowledge that the officials from the Attorney's portfolio area that appeared at estimates carried out their duties very well. I must say I have perhaps been a little selective in some of my comments about some departments, but in no way do my negative comments apply to officers of the Attorney's portfolio. I believe that they were very open in their responses to members of the committee.
Some of the issues I would like to touch on are ones that we as a community and we as an Assembly, as representatives of the people of Canberra, need to keep under scrutiny. They were discussed at some length in estimates. There was significant discussion on the Belconnen Remand Centre. The Government accepts that the Belconnen Remand Centre has passed its use-by date, and I am pleased that has been acknowledged by all concerned. The Labor Party does disagree with the Liberal Party on a replacement prison for the ACT, but I will not debate that now. We will maintain our view that a prison for the ACT would best be publicly owned and managed. That is perhaps a debate we can have at another stage. I believe that this important community debate has not been conducted fully within the community. I say to the Minister - I acknowledge that it is not an issue that we would debate now - that the Labor Party remains firmly of the view that a prison for the ACT should be publicly owned and managed.
Some of my concerns around the Belconnen Remand Centre go to the treatment of detainees with substance abuse problems. I have a very genuine and deep concern about the treatment of substance abusers in corrective institutions, and I will reiterate those. We were advised informally during the estimates process - it was not a formal, statistical response - that probably 50 per cent of all indigenous detainees at the Belconnen Remand Centre and a significant number of the detainees at Quamby have a significant substance abuse problem. I think it is accepted that 30 per cent of non-indigenous detainees at the Belconnen Remand Centre have a substance abuse problem.
I have a concern regarding the evidence provided during the estimates process by a number of departments, not just the Attorney's portfolio area. This is, to a large extent, a health issue as much as a straight justice issue, but they overlap in relation to the detention of people with substance abuse. I notice from the Government's response to the Estimates Committee report that it is prepared to look more urgently at the needs of addicts who are detained. I acknowledge that that is a very positive outcome of the estimates process - that a particular issue is receiving more urgent attention than it was perhaps receiving.